Mark Chernomzav is a CIMA student currently occupied with the Management level. Originally born in Russia, in his early twenties he moved to the Netherlands where he obtained a degree in Accounting & Control from Rotterdam School of Management. He currently resides in Den Haag and works as a FP&A analyst for FedEx Express Europe (see Linkedin profile here). In this position, he particularly enjoys being able to communicate with colleagues from all over Europe and avail of opportunities to learn more and develop himself.
The first Objective Test from the Financial pillar of CIMA's professional syllabus, F1 (Financial Reporting and Taxation) often causes students huge amounts of stress. In the following interview, Mark offers reassuring words to those who are feeling overwhelmed ahead of their F1 exams...
When did you take the F1 exam and how did you get on? Was it your first attempt?
I took the exam on January 16th 2019 and passed it with my first attempt.
How long did you spend preparing for the F1 paper?
It took me one and a half months to prepare for the exam. I took 8 full days where I studied 8-10 hours a day (half of my Christmas break), and then probably 3 weekends each studying for 4 hours. So, in total, I think it was around 80 hours.
I was very motivated to finish my studies by the middle of January latest, as my ambition was to sit the OCS (Operational Case Study) in February 2019 and F1 was my last objective exam at the Operational level. Otherwise, I think I would have spent a longer period studying, but with fewer hours per day.
Did you take a course or did you opt for self-study?
I opted for self-study. I purchased the Kaplan textbook, their exam practice kit and revision cards. I read the textbook and did all the exercises from the exam kit.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with F1 in relation to your preparation? e.g. balancing personal life with study, balancing work with study, the material was dull etc?
In general, I find the financial pillar less exciting than others. Both E1 (Organisational Management) and P1 (Management Accounting) were more fun to study. But the main problem was the sheer size of the syllabus, e.g. my textbook had more than 20 chapters. To assist myself with memorising topics, I was making a summary of each chapter I read. By the way, those notes also helped me when preparing for the OCS.
What (if anything), did you find especially difficult with F1 in relation to the exam day? e.g. time management, nerves etc?
The exam went well. I found it much easier than P1. Questions were shorter and clearer - therefore, I had less pressure from a timing perspective. As the syllabus is theory-heavy, you get more theory questions which take less time on average and need to do fewer calculations. I had practical experience with some of the topics (e.g. tax and audit) from my work at a Big 4 company. That also helped a lot.
Was there an area of the F1 syllabus that you liked more than others?
Theory related to working capital management made for interesting reading. Although, I forgot the formulas from there almost immediately as I do not use them anywhere in my work.
Was there an area of the F1 syllabus that you liked less than others?
Consolidation/group accounts. For me, it was the most complicated topic. It is exceptionally difficult to get a holistic view of how consolidation works only by reading a book. You see the individual consolidation entries and their required sequence, but you do not understand why they are done in the way it is described in the book. It helped me a lot to do several consolidation exercises from start to finish, showing the impact of consolidation entries on both the balance sheet and the income statement and understanding the link between them.
Probably, if I studied it again now, I would seek help from a tutor or look for explanatory videos online.
Do you have any tips for other students about to sit F1?
Do not stress out and do not be afraid to sit the exam. The majority of the people pass it at the first attempt and it is really not a very difficult exam. I read a lot of posts on Facebook from students who overthink and become really scared of sitting the exam. From my experience, the actual exam questions are easier than what you find in preparatory materials.
Have you used VIVA’s case study materials? If so, how did you find the materials?
I used the case study pack for my OCS exam in February 2019. It was a real life-saver. As I had three weeks to prepare for the OCS and a full-time job, I did not have enough time for a thorough reading of the pre-seen materials. Instead, I used VIVA's pre-seen analysis to get an understanding of the case and did VIVA's mock exams. VIVA's pre-seen analysis saved me a lot of time and it also highlighted topics I needed to revise and the mocks were useful to prepare for real exam conditions.
If you want to learn more from our CIMA Student Series about F1 - Financial Reporting and Taxation, click here.